Berghouse on Tuckey
pioneers who headed to Japan to investigate its car industry in the 1960s, later also packing his bags to see what was happening in Korea and China.
On the book front, his first was called The Book of Australian Motor Racing, published by KG Murray in 1964 when Tuckey was 28. There was drama with his next book, The Ultimate Excitement\ in 1967, when Customs officials thought it was a pornographic publication. But it was a compilation of excellent motorsport pictures by Nigel Snowdon with words by Tuckey.
For a while there was a diversion from writing in the early 1970s as Tuckey and his wife opened a delicatessen and sandwich shop in Neutral Bay, then moved into the entertainment business with the French Hell Drivers and a number of other club acts.
But it didn’t last long, and Tuckey forged a long-term alliance with Ray Berghouse and Tom Floyd that became Chevron Publishing, the umbrella company for AMC and many other successful business ventures.
Tuckey’s son, Stuart, says his father was proud of many of his achievements. There is the inaugural Motoring Journalist of the Year award from 1985, a CAMS motorsport media award, and the book The Rise and fall of Peter Brock.
“He put an incredible amount of research and effort into that book. It was a best seller and went into a second repeat,” Stuart says.
“He was also very proud of the Bathurst books. He always said it’s about the emotion, not just the race.”
As for drivers, Tuckey was a fan of Stan Jones but his personal favourite was Frank Matich.
“We lived in North Rocks in Sydney and they [the Matich family] lived in Carlingford, and we used to socialise all the time. We saw what Frank did, all the way through. From an engineering and a driving point-of-view, he was one of the greatest apart from Jack Brabham,” Stuart says.
Tuckey had one last big tilt, after time as editor at Car Australia magazine, when he became a radio shock jock in Melbourne. He wasn’t quite Derryn Hinch, and it only lasted a few years, but his time on 3AW reflected the same opinioned and entertaining style that carried him through the decades of motoring journalist.
Tuckey and Marcie retired to Merimbula in 2001 but they eventually returned to Melbourne where his health took the first of several dives in 2010.
“Motoring journalism, and possibly the motoring industry, would have been different without Tuckey. He made both better,” says John Smailes.
“Every Australian motoring journalist owes Bill Tuckey a debt,” says motoring writer Mel Nichols. Bill Tuckey was profiled in full two years ago, in AMC issue #73.
Some people more than most leave their footprints clearly in the sands of time! One such individual was Bill Tuckey, perhaps Australia’s most talented motoring journalist with a string of abilities and publishing successes that would make any aspiring younger writer fearful of their own lack of ability. From the early 1960s I had the exceptional pleasure of knowing Bill, working with him and watching his prodigious talent first-hand. Like no other, Bill would sit at his typewriter (remember those?) in the Sydney offices at K.G. Murray Publishing, insert a page of copy paper and start to type – so fast that it seemed the words were spilling out of his mind faster than even his fingers could move. But when the clacking finally finished, he would hand the stack of paragraph-pages to the sub-editor whose job it was to find a mistake or make a nominal correction. When it came to Bill work the subeditor’s job was different: as the first person to read the story, it was mostly to just read and enjoy it long before the rest of the world had that pleasure!
If Bill had a fault it was relying on his memory a shade too often, sometimes with quite interesting potential results. Research was for others – despite this quirk of personality he was seldom wrong.
When Bill, Tom Floyd and I teamed up in the early 1980s to produce books and event programmes on a wide variety of motoring and motorsport topics it was the most stimulating and enjoyable period in publishing I can remember. Books on the motoring industry, Bathurst (both historic and annual) and a variety of others gave him a platform on which to perform and those stories are still great reading, decades later!
His enthusiasm for racing knew no bounds – as a driver, navigator, commentator on event PA systems, TV commentary, radio reporting and of course, newspaper, magazine and book authoring and reporting.
In 1979, again with Tom Floyd, we shared a trip around Australia courtesy of Castrol and Marlboro, following and reporting on the Repco ‘Round Australia Trial. But the Repco story for us actually started several weeks earlier on the dirt roads around Diamond Valley outside Melbourne, the ‘natural’ stomping ground of a local driver, Peter Brock.
With Brock driving one of the trial team (red, white and black) Commodores on a photographic shoot to get some pre-event publicity shots, we were ‘intercepted’ by the local Highway Patrol Sergeant who was chasing a bunch of young hooligans tearing up the back roads and generally causing the locals some problems. After recognising Brock there followed a friendly conversation after which Bill and the sergeant came to the conclusion that there must have been another red and white car out there somewhere, causing the dust and noise problems – quite coincidental really! Bill was always good at ‘the chat’ when necessary!
The fact that he was such a great writer overshadowed his role as teacher and mentor for several generations of ‘young turks’ who were lucky enough to find themselves reporting to Bill as editor on Wheels, Sports Car World and numerous other magazine titles. Frankly, Bill ‘taught’ largely by example – when the young guns compared their copy with his, the comparisons were frequently clear to see. ‘Go back and do it again sport – everyone deserves a second chance’!
Bill Tuckey – no longer with us; friend, mentor, creative genius – his like will not come our way again anytime soon!
Ray Berghouse recalls colleague & co-conspirator Bill Tuckey.
Ray Berghouse is AMC’s founding publisher and former business partner of Bill Tuckey.